12 December 2012

Arete & Lovingkindness

Dear Lissy,
It's been a looooong time since I've written you!  I've chosen to use my letter writing time to get in a workout each day, but I miss sharing my heart with you.  Ultimately though, this choice will give us more time together.

In 2012, I chose the concept of "one golden day" as my theme for the year.  It was a powerful choice:  we completely re-organized and simplified the house in February, and it's stayed that way.  I began an elimination diet and rigorous walking regimen in September, and my fitness level and weight are back where they were before I had kids (unfortunately, so is my wardrobe -- eeek!).  Our finances are in good order, despite almost six weeks when Daddy couldn't work because of sciatica.  School is running more smoothly after an evaluation and daily attention to detail.  All in all, I'm tempted to re-use that motto.  Being conscious of the power of daily consistency has radically changed my life during the past year, and I want that to continue and expand in the coming years.

I've been meditating during my walks on a powerful session from a 2010 ladies' conference on Micah 6:8 and the principles I've been studying in Essential Virtues: Marks of the Christ-Centered Life.   I'm seriously considering arete as my 2013 motto.  The Greek word, arete, translated virtue or excellence in the Bible is a powerful little word.  It reminds me that everything -- my home, my teaching, my piano playing, my relationships -- are to have the spirit of excellence that comes from seeking to glorify God in everything.  I know in our current culture, anyone exhibiting that kind of diligence and devotion is often perceived as being judgmental and phariseeical. Our world prefers messy people.   In all fairness, though, there is a real danger of  falling into a fleshly pursuit of perfection when you choose excellence.

This is where Micah 6:8 comes in.  "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the LORD require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God? "

  • Do Justly.  First, my actions need to be arete.  I want to focus on consistently choosing arete, or excellence for myself.  I want to do all to the glory of God.  There's a funny twist to this though:  God measures our output, not our input, but we can only control the input.  Everything that we "output" is by the grace and work of Christ in our lives.  
  • Love Mercy.  Secondly, my reactions need to be arete.  Our fleshly response to others' sin and poor choices is either to try to rescue them from the consequences or wish that God would just "git 'em good."  Instead, we should love to see (and assist in prayer) God's hand in another person's life whether it is doling out discipline that will help them grow or bathing them in mercy because they have repented and returned to His ways.  Love doesn't throw stones or life preservers.  It trusts, prays, and waits like the father of the Prodigal Son who knew that both the pigpen and the feast with the fatted calf were equally important to restore fellowship.
  • Walk Humbly. My third responsibility is to keep my attitudes arete.  I need the humility that realizes anything good in my life is by the grace and work of Christ.  We tend to be arrogant about our strengths and overly sensitive about our weaknesses.    I have extremely low tolerance for poor service at a restaurant after thousands of hours spent waitressing.   On the flip side, I'm overly sensitive about my wardrobe which is hopelessly outdated and not likely to get better in the forseeable future.  (Just try teasing me about the 9" zipper and pleats on my jeans.  I dare you.)   Those are superficial examples, but they carry through into our spiritual walk as well.  Both sides of the coin are pride, and both need the power of Christ if we wish to see victory.
I'm not 100% sure that arete will be my theme/goal for 2013, but I'm fairly certain it will be some variation of that concept.  Well, you're all finished school, our 3.6 tons of coal for the winter just arrived on the truck, and it's time for a walk, so I need to wrap this up.

I love you!
Marmie (because we just watched Little Women together last night)

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